Sunday, December 11, 2016

Stretching is Good!

We have just finished a wonderful week that started well and just kept getting better.  We have learned to stretch as we do new things, putting more dependance on the Lord.  We know that He is in charge and acknowledge His hand in our mission and in our lives.  We have found that we are not anyone special, but when we strive to serve the Lord, we are able to be instruments in his hands and that is really special.  Our week ended in a medieval Christmas Market which gave us a literal stretching opportunity.

On the stretching rack in the Medieval Castle

Our week started out with a birthday celebration in the office for our dear friend, Sister Healy.  She and her husband have become some of our closest friends.  Sister Rueckert has the privilege to be her visiting teacher.

Monday evening, we had our monthly home evening.  We had three couples from France, Portugal and Great Britain who shared the Christmas traditions within their countries.  Once again, we are blessed by the diversity of those we work with and their goodness to share with us.

Sister Poznanski, sharing French Traditions

 Of course, the primary goal for our week was to help Jorge Alvarado to return home to be with his family.  This entire experience has stretched our understanding and abilities.  However, each step of the way has been guided by our Heavenly Father.

After a week in the hospital with malaria, he was making great progress.  As we visited with him on Monday, we were trying to get a decision from the doctors as to when he could be released.  Jorge asked a nurse if he could talk to a doctor.  He was told, "Yes, just go down the hall and visit with him".  This was the first time that Jorge was able to leave his room.  Jorge has such an enthusiasm for everything, we loved to see him enjoying a little more freedom and to begin to explore the hospital.  As he walked around, he noticed snacks in a room and discovered that snacks were available.  Although we were seeing great progress, we were unable to get a firm commitment from the doctors that night.  They did tell us that we would be able to check him out early in the morning.  So we asked Salt Lake City to book a morning flight for Wednesday or Thursday morning.

Tuesday we once again visited with Jorge and we had a little staff meeting with Tom King and myself.  Jorge taught us so much about serving the local leadership.  Even though he was in the hospital, he was  serving as a resource to us.  The following is a screen shot of a Face Time meeting with Jorge, which we did in between visits to follow up with him.

Finally on Tuesday evening Jorge found that he would be released from the hospital on Wednesday but not in time to catch the available flight.  We then confirmed flight plans for Thursday morning.  

This gave us a chance to take Sister Rueckert to a doctor's appointment to review the status of her bladder.  The office staff that doesn't speak English have gotten to know us well enough, that when we come in, they immediately recognize Deborah Rückert.  That reduces the need for our German efforts.  The visit went well and she continues to be doing fine.  Her doctor's office is right in the middle of the Frankfurt Christmas Market.  So we spent 30 minutes after the appointment to visit some of the market and to get lunch.

Sister Rueckert with the famous long Bratwurst

In front of the Christmas Market in Frankfurt
As we were arriving home from the doctor on the train, we got a call from Jorge.  He said that he was checked out and would no longer have a room after 1:00 pm.  We tried to make arrangements for a mattress so that he could sleep the night in our apartment.  However, when I arrived he felt that he just wanted to go to a hotel and sleep and preserve his strength for the flight home.  He was told that his white blood cell count was still high  due to his head injury, but that they thought he was good enough to fly home.
Jorge in front of Building 68A where he spent most of the past 10 days.
Before going to the Hotel, Jorge asked if he could go and see the temple.  Even though it is in the process of remodeling, we made the trip to the temple site.

Jorge in front of the temple construction site

 After the trip to the temple site, Jorge was exhausted.  We checked him into the hotel and let him sleep most of the rest of the day.  The next morning we went and had breakfast with him in the hotel and then went to the airport.  He was able to get special assistance from the airport and they took care of getting him to the flight and to his connection in Atlanta.

With our friend Jorge Alvarado in the airport as he was finally returning home to be with his family.
Jorge heading off to his flight home
His safe arrival was confirmed to us by a text and a subsequent photo from his good wife, Cari Lu.

Just a few words about Jorge.  He is such a positive person and so kind to everyone.  Several members of the ward visited with him in the hospital and they became instant friends.  He treated Tom King and his wife and us with so much love and kindness.  As he returned home we received wonderful comments from his wife and his extended family.  We also found a note from him to "his family - us" in our car yesterday.  Today in Church several asked me about him.  He may have made an unexpected visit to the hospital in Germany, but he made a lasting impression on all that were privileged to be of service to him.  He told us that he would send us personal letters for several that served him in the hospital.  We will hand deliver them with a Book of Mormon before Christmas.

We have pondered the joy of service to others.  We were put in the right place with the right opportunity to serve and help Jorge.  We only did what others would have done. The feelings of gratitude that come back only encourage us to serve when another opportunity arises.  We are thankful for this opportunity that has greatly enriched our Christmas season.  Thank you Jorge and Cari Lu!

We have used our experience with Jorge to fulfill many of the suggestions to Light the World.  The rest of the season we are now required to look further for ways to serve.

On Thursday night we were able to have a relatively new missionary couple come to dinner.  We love to do this to get to know the missionary couples that are serving in our area.  We also felt that this might have helped us to feed the hungry, which was the Light the World suggestion for the previous day.

On Friday, the goal was to visit the lonely.  Once again we were able to visit a senior missionary  in another hospital who had his gall bladder removed the previous day.  We are starting to get pretty good at locating and navigating around hospitals.

Also on Friday, the youth of our ward went on a temple trip to Freiburg to do baptisms for the dead.  We were able to send 95 names with them.  These represents the family history names that we had found and put into Family Search for the past few months.

The 95 family names that we sent with the youth to do baptisms
We have pondered about the power of temple work.  We realize that these individuals represented above .have limited progress in the spirit prison until their temple work is completed.  Even though they have waited hundreds of years, we feel an urgency to get their ordinances taken care of as soon as possible.  Another opportunity to keep stretching

In between the hospital visits, we were able to get a little bit of work done in the office.  Fortunately, this has been a slower time, so most of our other work has not suffered.  Once again the Lord is sorting things out and making it possible for us to help others.

During this past week we were able to get all of our Christmas shopping done for our children and grandchildren and for each other.  Thank goodness for and  Our daughter Beckie is wrapping and distributing presents for those families that will be attending the family Christmas party this coming Saturday.  This was the easiest Christmas gift giving ever for us.  We did pick up a few things for Sister Rueckert's birthday in the medieval market (see below).

This week we organized a Saturday activity with another of the new missionary couples, Elder and Sister Steineckert.  Their name is a little similar to ours and they have ancestors from Bavaria, somewhat close to ours.  They agreed to go with us to visit a medieval Christmas Market at the Ronnerburg Castle, less than an hour from Frankfurt.  We had heard about this from other missionary couples who had visited.  This was the last weekend that this market would be available.

We started our Saturday, leaving at 9:30 to arrive in time for favorable parking and all went as planned.   The weather was perfect, the only blue skies of the week and temperatures above freezing.  This castle was very different, in that there were many individuals dressed up in medieval attire and it offered many participative activities.  Our new friends, the Steineckerts were enjoyable company.  We loved every thing about it!  The following are several of the many photos that we took:

With Elder and Sister Steineckert in front of the castle
As we come in, many guests in medieval dress

two guards at the entrance of the castle

Sister Rueckert in her older clothes

Elder Rueckert with his shiny armor

In trouble for being a Scharlatan

Sister Steineckert stretching Elder Rueckert to get taller

Food cooking in the kitchen
Stirring the food which was available for purchase

Selling some delightful preserves.  We bought a few of them for our Christmas enjoyment.

Playing the harp near the bakery
Some of the market items were not what we traditionally see in Christmas Markets

The hand built Christmas ornaments were beautiful

We asked what an authentic original German Christmas ornament would be.  We were told it would be the glass birds with feathers. This is especially the case for the white dove which represents the Holy Ghost.

Many Christmas bird ornaments
 We then took time to climb to the top of the castle.  The Light the World challenge on Saturday was to Help Someone Else Walk.  We took this literally and encouraged Sister Rueckert to make the hike to the top.  I am happy to report that she did very well.

Entering the area where we begin our ascent

Climbing the spiral stone staircase

Climbing the last set of stairs

She made it
We climbed to the top of this tower with it's magnificent view
The view across Germany was worth the climb

This view of the market below shows the shadow of the castle

Quite a wonderful view of the outdoor Medieval Market

View into the castle courtyard
View of the country side, including a view of Frankfurt in the distance

We bumped into Elder and Sister Swenson also.  They are the Area Young Single Adult missionaries.
Christmas tree in the courtyard

Guards to the medieval outdoor market

Entertainment in the medieval markets

Old fashion functional merry go round

Lunch is cooking

Enjoying a skewer of pork with bread on the end
One thing that was nice was the many who come to the market also dressed in the medieval attire.  The following photos are of a few of them:

Car parking in the distance

Getting a drink at the tavern
This was our view of the castle as we departed for home
 We finished our trip and returned home by 3:30 pm.  It seemed to be a perfect day, but we weren't done yet.  We really wanted to go to a choir and bells concert at the Old Trinity Lutheran Church in Frankfurt at 5:00 pm.  We chose to stretch ourselves.  We managed to take a train and arrive in perfect timing.  This was another insight into traditional German Christmas celebration.  The concert was mostly in English with some German messages and prayers.  We loved it.  It was the end of a perfect day.
Choir, flutists and bell ringers inside the Church

Bell Ringers, one of our favorites

Final Song- Choir of the Bells

As we left this wonderful concert, we were back into the Frankfurt Christmas Market.  An outdoor band concert from the top of the Church was in process.  A few night photos of that market.

You can see the band on the roof of the Church playing Christmas Music

Church in the back ground, Merry Christmas in German

The lit Christmas Tree, lot of people around

With the market and Church in the background
Life size nativity scene

Drinking some hot chocolate

The DomPlatz Catholic church, on the other side of the train stop
Finally back home at the end of a perfect day.  We were able to relax into the evening around our fully decorated apartment.  The following are a few of the decoration updates:

Added some poinsettias, low cost, high beauty

Added some small figurines from the Christmas Market on Wednesday

Sister Rueckert overhauled our nativity and now it starts turning even before we get all the candles lit.